After missing my Virgin Australia flight to Los Angeles and spending the night at the Rydges hotel at the airport, I was re-booked onto Delta’s own Sydney – Los Angeles flight.
I was using Delta miles for the trip so they opened up space on their own aircraft, which was especially generous of them considering they gave us two of the final three revenue seats available that day. They did manage to re-book us in award classes, though, so no miles for the trip!
- Introduction: Virgin Australia and Delta Business Class, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney
- Concourse Hotel LAX, a Hyatt affiliate
- Virgin Australia Check-in and Star Alliance Business Class Lounge
- Virgin Australia Business Class, Los Angeles – Brisbane
- Virgin Australia Brisbane Lounge and Business Class, Brisbane – Cairns
- Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas
- Virgin Australia Lounge, Cairns and Business Class, Cairns – Sydney
- Park Hyatt Sydney
- Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel
- American Express Lounge, Sydney
- Skyteam Lounge, Sydney
- Air New Zealand (Temporary) Lounge, Sydney
I was actually excited to be able to compare Virgin Australia’s 7-across business class to Delta’s four-across. Delta operates the flight with a Boeing 777 fitted with (not reverse) herringbone seats and unfortunately no internet. So not the airline’s best product, but decent enough.
Shortly before boarding was scheduled to commence we left the lounge and entered the gate area and found it quite crowded.
It turns out the flight was delayed for maintenance, and the plane had to be brought over to the gate. All in all we were nearly an hour behind schedule, and folks were getting antsy because there wasn’t much information being shared.
Eventually they were ready for us to board, and I made a beeline for the aircraft so I could get on and snap some photos before the cabin filled up.
My immediate impression was that the seats are narrow, there’s not much storage space, and there’s not much privacy. (In contrast the Virgin Australia seats didn’t have storage space or privacy either, but they were excellent beds largely due to the bedding.)
Menus were distributed and everyone was offered predeparture beverages. I asked for water and the flight attendant just couldn’t seem to accept this. She kept insisting that I already had a bottle of water at my seat. But:
- I wanted ice water
- I wanted to save the bottle of water, not knowing how many they’d have or how easy it would be to get replacements.
This exchange must have taken about two minutes, as she kept pointing to the bottle I already have and me insisting that I understood but I still wanted water. Eventually she huffed off and got me water. Very strange. I assumed this would be the start of a bad service experience for the flight, but it wasn’t.
Along with predeparture beverages we got a packaged snack mix.
Tumi amenity kits were distributed as well.
I spent the rest of boarding time and the time waiting to push back familiarizing myself with the seat, which was starting to show some wear, and reading a book.
Once inflight, flight attendants were in the aisle to start service. We began with a hot towel and a drink service.
And they quickly moved onto the meal. My impression was that Delta was doing a fantastic job with plating. I didn’t find the food better than business class on other American carriers, but the presentation was superior.
I also have to give high marks for the napkins — substantive and with a button hole.
Dessert was served from a cart.
Shortly after the main meal I took my blanket laid it out on my flatted seat to create a makeshift bed. For seat comfort Virgin Australia wins, and I expect the gap will become even greater as they roll out reverse herringbone all aisle access seats later this year. I’d also say that American’s 777-300ER seats are superior as well, that’s the plane that American will put on Los Angeles – Sydney starting in December. But Delta’s business seat is better than United’s for sure.
I don’t generally sleep well on morning long haul departures — I’ve just slept the night, I’m not really ready to sleep again. I’ll tend to get tired late in the flight. So despite making the bed (I didn’t have pajamas to change into – Delta doesn’t provide them in business like Virgin Australia does, and I had anticipated flying Virgin Australia on the return) I didn’t really sleep. I watched shows I had downloaded to my laptop for hour after hour.
Each time I’d get up to use the restroom flight attendants were happy to give me more water bottles if I needed them, I have to say I was pleased with that, often they’re concerned they don’t have enough but no water rationing was in effect for this flight.
A couple of hours prior to arrival flight attendants came around serving breakfast. The food was tasty though wholly unimaginative. The coffee was marginally better than the undrinkable swill they serve on American. Marginally. I remain frustrated that no US airline makes a decent cup of coffee in business class.
Overall I’d rate the seats as fine, the service and food as fine-plus. I’d choose Virgin Australia (for sleeping, food, and service) and American (seats) over Delta on this route, and I’d choose Delta over United. I haven’t flown the new Qantas business class so can’t give a fair comparison there.
If Delta would fly their own reverse herringbone seats to Australia, and extend inflight internet, I’d think that they would be almost as good as their joint venture partner Virgin Australia. The service and food were better than what I usually see in American business class.
Bottom-line, though, is that I’d certainly fly the service again — perfectly good transportation.